Beyond our walls
The Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative (ELNC) in Grand Rapids, Michigan visited the Center in early August to learn about our model and practices. This Michigan program shares our vision of having a community where all children, regardless of the neighborhood in which they live can thrive developmentally and educationally allowing them to reach their full potential. ELNC’s CEO, Dr. Nkechy Ekere Ezeh led a collaborative process in 2010 of involving seven grassroots neighborhood organizations for the purpose of planning and designing an intentional preschool service system in vulnerable neighborhoods. Since then, ELNC has been able to create 500 preschool slots and receive over $20 million in grants. The Center will continue collaborating with this program and sharing its expertise.
Two national studies showcase United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education as delivering transformational results
USING DATA-DRIVEN STRATEGIES, ENHANCING QUALIFICATIONS OF TEACHERS, FAMILY ENGAGEMENT AND PROMOTING DUAL LANGUAGE AMONG TOP PRACTICES
The 2019 school year has been one for the record books, as the United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education’s Head Start and Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership programs earned high marks from two prestigious national organizations, Bellwether Education Partners and The Bipartisan Policy Center.
Bellwether Education Partners, a national nonprofit organization focused on reforming education to better meet the needs of underserved children, released Leading by Exemplar: Lessons from Head Start Programs.To be considered for the report, United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education, Demonstration School, Educare of Miami-Dade had to show evidence of “positive impacts on children’s learning that were either substantially larger than those of typical Head Start or other early-childhood programs or sustained beyond kindergarten entry.”
The report names the Center’s Demonstration School, as one of the top five Head Start programs in the country. Using Acelero Learning key strategies, the report describes excellence, through five factors: curriculum (including assessments and instruction), meeting the needs of all children, ensuring high-quality teaching, family engagement and data utilization.
The report recognizes: “By combining curriculum, instruction and family engagement practices from a variety of sources; using data to customize them to its unique population and context; and providing intensive, highly reflective support to teachers and staff, UWCFE (the Center’s Demonstration School) has developed a unique approach to high-quality early learning that draws on a rich mosaic of practices and offerings to meet the needs of diverse children and families and model educational excellence in one of the nation’s most diverse cities.”
Earlier this year, the Bipartisan Policy Center released Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships (EHS-CCP): Spotlighting Early Successes Across America, to showcase the impact of EHS-CCP on the communities it serves. Created by Congress in 2014, the EHS-CCP attempts to address issues that disproportionately affect low-to-moderate income communities by expanding access to high-quality infant and toddler care for working, low-income families.
According to the Bipartisan Policy Center report, one of the biggest barriers to quality early education is the high cost associated with it. In fact, in 33 states, the cost of infant care is higher than the cost of in-state tuition at a public university. Studies show that the true cost of providing high-quality infant and toddler care can range between $12,000 and $21,000 yearly, yet the national average for subsidies is much lower, about $5,600, as stated in the report. As a result, child care centers and family child care homes that accept subsidized infants and toddlers do not have the means to offer high-quality services.
Locally, the United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education is an EHS-CCP grantee and directly serves 520 children (ages six weeks to three years old) and their families, and indirectly impacts an additional 625 children. The Center partners with 16 child care centers and five family child care homes that agree to meet Head Start Program Performance Standards, and in exchange, the 21 programs receive additional funds and a myriad of resources, coaching and technical assistance to improve the quality of their services.
The Center’s EHS-CCP program excelled in five unique models, tailored to local communities and needs:
- Enhancing the qualifications and professional development of existing workforce helping providers attain their Child Development Associate CDA Credential, and connecting them with TEACH, a national organization that provides financial assistance to early educators seeking a bachelor’s degree.
- Supporting women and children experiencing homelessness through a partnership with Lotus Village, by offering high-quality education and parenting trainings to 48 families who live in the shelter.
- Providing family child care homes, who generally don’t have access to robust resources and technical assistance, with a wide array of trainings to help them make necessary health, safety and education updates, including playgrounds, age-appropriate books and toys, and more…
- Working with Miami-Dade County Public Schools to promote continuity of care and improve transition from early education to k-12 schooling for the child and the family.
- Encouraging dual-language learners in one of the most diverse cities in the world through teacher trainings and family engagement. The impact of dual-language is multifaceted, strengthening cognitive, social and economic growth.
If you’d like a firsthand experience of the teaching and learning that takes place at the United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Providing opportunities for professional growth
On March 8, the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership (EHS-CCP) hosted a celebration for 19 Family Engagement Specialist that received the National Family Development Credential (FDC). The FDC, a 90-hour course program, works to provide frontline workers with the knowledge and skills they need to coach families to set and reach their own goals for healthy self-reliance in their communities. During this event, three parents participated as guest speakers, providing inspiring messages to the graduates. Parents spoke about the positive impact of having a family engagement staff working with them as partners.
Leveling the playing field for our community’s children
Science learning at any age involves curiosity, exploration, and discovery. These come naturally to most infants and toddlers. At the Demonstration School and all of the Early Head Start programs we serve in our community, we promote an inquiry-based learning approach that is guided by an investigation or questions posed by children. Teachers observe children closely to know where their interests lie and together develop research questions.
At our United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education, Demonstration School, we serve 116 children ages 0 – 5 years old in a mixed-income model environment. Some of our children are full pay, and some are subsidized by Early Head Start, Head Start or VPK. This type of set-up provides us with the unique opportunity to see if what we are doing at the Demonstration School is changing the odds for children. In a study prepared by Bellwether Education, 357 children throughout Miami-Dade County were assessed on their science competence with a tool developed by Dr. Greenfield and his team at the University of Miami called Lens on Science. The results show that Demonstration School children in the Head Start program do better than other Head Start children in the county.
Demonstration School teachers share their knowledge at a national STEM conference
At the Demonstration School, teachers model an inquiry-based learning approach that is guided by investigation and questions posed by children. This approach naturally fits with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education since it promotes critical thinking and innovation in the early years.
Through the Early Science Initiative Acceleration grant led by Dr. Daryl Greenfield from the University of Miami, Educare schools in Seattle, Omaha, and our Demonstration School are developing a school-wide culture of inquiry through the integration of science content and pedagogy into embedded professional development in the classroom
Wilda Ramos and Diana Najera, two toddler teachers from the Demonstration School, were invited to join the University of Miami team at the Early Childhood STEM Conference in Pasadena, California. Wilda and Diana shared their experiences with the children at the Demonstration School and how these new concepts learned through the grant are impacting their teaching practices as well as children’s learning experiences.
“The Demonstration commitment to the Early Science Initiative is palpable. The teachers in the audience were able to get concrete classroom examples from Wilda and Diana that were incredibly helpful. The Center is really elevating the quality of early care and education in Miami-Dade and beyond by sharing classroom experience at a national level.” – Daryl Greenfield, Ph.D.
Elevating the quality of infant and toddler programs nationwide
Eleven Educare organizations were awarded nearly $30 million in federal grants to boost the quality of their infant and toddler programs through the Early Head Start Partnership grant. Last week, Educare Learning Network Leaders from 11 cities met at the United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education with the objectives of leveraging peer knowledge; create peer relationships for future support across the Educare network, and identify policies that are barriers to implement the program successfully. Currently, the Early Head Start program only reaches 4 percent of eligible children under age three living in poverty nationwide. For this reason, Educare is working on expanding access to early care and education to the homeless population and increasing enrollment.
The Center’s Demonstration School joined the Educare Learning Network in 2008, becoming the seventh Educare Center in the country. Today there are 21 centers in this growing network which is regarded as one of the nation’s most effective early childhood education program.
Leveling the playing field for our community’s children
Getting all children off to a strong start with a high-quality early education that focuses on science can have such a positive impact on the development of low-income infants and toddlers that it can level the playing field.
That’s according to a recent Educare, University of Miami study that takes a close look at how our United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education – a part of the Educare Learning Network – is preparing children academically.
Science learning at any age involves curiosity, exploration, and discovery and comes naturally to most infants and toddlers. What sets The Center apart is that we promote an inquiry-based learning approach that is guided by an investigation or questions posed by children. And the results of this approach are promising.
In the study, prepared by Bellwether Education, 357 children throughout Miami-Dade County were assessed and the results show that children in The Center’s Head Start program performed better than other Head Start children in the county.
The research suggest that the Center’s inquiry-based learning approach and its unique focus on science had the largest impact on Head Start children and has the potential to close the achievement gap for low-income at risk young children. That’s encouraging news for our program and exciting news for our students.
United Way expands Early Head Start to Lotus Village
Last month, when Lotus House opened its state-of-the-art $25 million Lotus Village shelter for homeless women and children, our United Way was proud to be part of this milestone event. That’s because as part of this new complex, our United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education will be providing high-quality early care and education to the children that are currently living in Lotus Village and in the surrounding Overtown neighborhood.
Housed within Lotus Village’s Micky and Madeleine Arison Family Foundation Children’s Wellness Center, United Way will operate six classrooms serving children from birth to four years old. This program is funded through a United Way Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership grant.
“Every child should have the opportunity to have a promising future,” Gladys Montes, vice president, United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education, said. “By bringing early care programs designed to meet the unique needs of the children and families living at Lotus Village, we are nurturing healing and learning to ensure their optimal growth and development at every level.”
This is not the first time our United Way has partnered with Lotus House. In 2010, as a delegate of Miami-Dade County Early Head Start Program, we began providing weekly home visits to Lotus House residents, helping the moms improve their parenting skills, prepare for job interviews and participate in monthly socialization events. At the same time, this allowed their children the opportunity to engage with other children at our Demonstration School. From there, our collaboration continued to grow, culminating in the opening of six early learning classrooms in the Lotus Village Children’s Wellness Center. Since 2006, Lotus House has grown from a 34 homeless women’s shelter housed in an aging Overtown apartment building to its new Lotus Village campus with the capacity to serve up to 500 women and children on a daily basis. This safe haven not only helps the healing process and allows hope to blossom, but also grants women and their children a new lease on life.
DCF License: C11MD2655
The sooner children get on a path to learning, the more successful they’ll become. That’s the lesson Jorge learned after he enrolled Malvin, his shy foster son, into our United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education (the Center).
“Our son had been placed in seven homes and in seven different daycare centers, before being placed with us,” said the father of two foster children. “It wasn’t going very well. Every time I would come in, there was an incident report,” he recalled. “I don’t think that they were equipped to handle a foster child.”
Malvin’s behavior problems began to improve after he was accepted to the Center. “One day he comes home and all of a sudden, he’s counting to 10,” recalled Jorge. “He hadn’t counted before, and you’re like “oh my God!”
At the Center, Jorge discovered that it takes a team approach for children to thrive. And the evidence is convincingly clear. High-quality early learning programs, which include well-qualified teachers, research-based curriculum and assessments and family engagement are essential to nurturing young bodies and minds. “At the United Way Center, everyone is on the same page,” said Jorge. “And they all communicate with each other – the teachers, the therapists, family engagement, the parents. It’s like a village.” And the improvements in his son have been encouraging.
“Number one, he’s more social,” observed Jorge. “He had a lot of fear of people in the beginning. And most importantly, he wants to do better. If he’s learning something at school, he’ll come home and want to practice it.”
Jorge believes that the early learning experiences that his son is now receiving are providing him with a foundation for later success.
”My son’s future looks bright,” he said. “In my generation we waited until you were in Kindergarten. But by starting him out early, he’s coming home, talking to us about birds and nature and numbers and letters. And I’m just amazed that at that age he able to grasp all of that.”
Living up to our name
Miami-Dade County Public School (MDCPS) Board recognized the Center for its Excellence in Early Childhood during their meeting in April. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho recognized our long-standing relationship, specifically the work we are doing with infant and toddlers in our community. The Center currently operates Early Head Start classrooms at three MDCPS schools, Ethel Beckford/Richmond Elementary, Lilie C. Evans and Carol City Elementary.
Sharing our science approach at a national level
With fuding from Educare, our local evaluation partners, University of Miami, are working with our Demonstration School, Educare Seattle and Educare Omaha in an Early Science Initiative. University of Miami hosted a contest with over 15 teaching teams from these schools and Columba Yebaile, infant and toddler teacher and Nichole Londono, master teacher were selected to present at the Early Childhood STEM (Science, technology, Engineering and Math) conference in Anaheim, California. Columba and Nichole’s presentation talked about the importance of science in the early years and how job-embedded professional learning can teach the school community to harness the power of science.
With funding from Educare, our local evaluation partners, University of Miami, are working with our Demonstration School, Educare Seattle and Educare Omaha in an Early Science Initiative. University of Miami hosted a contest with over 15 teaching teams from these schools and Columba Yebaile, infant and toddler teacher and Nichole Londono, master teacher were selected to present at the Early Childhood STEM (Science, technology, Engineering and Math) conference in Anaheim, California. Columba and Nichole’s presentation talked about the importance of science in the early years and how job-embedded professional learning can teach the school community to harness the power of science.
Mobile dental van offers free dental care for infant and toddlers
The “Seals on Wheels Mobile Dental Program” is a school-based sealant program, sponsored by the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County and the Health Foundation of South Florida. The dental van provides preventive dental care to early care and education programs in Miami-Dade County, including our Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership sites, in an effort to help reduce oral health disparities. Oral screenings, fluoride varnishes and oral hygiene instructions are provided to children 0-5 years of age at no charge. To date, more than 240 of children in the Partnership have benefited from this program.
Expanding infant and toddler care
The Center, along with its partners, provides 520 infant and toddlers and their families with quality early care and education in 20 programs throughout Miami-Dade, four of which are operated and managed by United Way at Miami-Dade County Public Schools: Ethel Beckford/Richmond Elementary, Lillie C. Evans K-8, Carol City Elementary, and the new state-of-the-art Lotus Village Early Care and Education Program.
A matter of degrees: Demonstration School teachers pursue higher education
Teacher effectiveness is among the most important factors impacting the quality of early care and education. When teachers pursue a higher education degree in early childhood education, they are better equipped to support children’s development and school readiness. In Florida, the minimum educational requirement for lead teachers is a 45-hour course from the Department of Children and Families. The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) grant provides grants of up to $4,000 per year to individuals who agree to teach for four years at a school or program that serves students from low-income families. Through this federal grant, four of our teacher assistants (Meyvis Gutierrez, Maria Chea, Yamilka Santana and Yutsimi Valdivia) are pursuing an associate degree in early childhood education at Miami-Dade College.
Giving men a voice in early childhood education
Men can play a key role in the development and well-being of young children. In many cases, however, men still have limited involvement in their child’s early care and education. The Demonstration School and the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership, together with Florida International University, provides men the opportunity to be involved in their children’s education by using skills in the classroom or providing a forum for them to share their ideas about their child’s education and development. This initiative is part of a research group called Padres Activos (Active Fathers) that brings together researchers from the fields of health communication, public health, pediatrics, biomedical engineering, and sociocultural studies in order to increase engagement among Hispanic/Latino fathers.
Going live on Facebook
Paula Moujalli, director of the Demonstration School, took to Facebook Live for nearly 11 minutes with Univision Contigo to stream a conversation about the importance of early childhood education. During the conversation, Paula talked about how United Way is helping to prepare children not only for kindergarten, but for life, and how early care and education programs have to partner with families and recognize them as the experts on their children.
Johnson and Wales promotes development and learning by sharing their culinary skills with children at the Demonstration School
On August 8, Johnson and Wales’ students visited the Demonstration School to help children cook their own pizza rolls and fruit pies. Cooking is not only a fun, engaging activity for children but one that has been used for years as an important teaching and development tool for all ages. Hands-on cooking activities help children develop pride and confidence in their skills and abilities, while also teaching them to follow directions and promoting self-regulation. Cooking inspires children’s curiosity, thinking, and problem-solving, and offers opportunities for them to understand and apply their knowledge of measuring, one-to-one correspondence, numbers, and counting. As they follow a recipe, children organize ingredients, follow a sequence, and carry out multiple directions
American Airlines managers join forces to create take-home packages for infant and toddlers and their families
During their annual conference, 350 American Airlines managers gathered to create more than 300 developmentally appropriate take-home packages for infant and toddlers that included paint, toothbrushes, and books among other materials. These packages provided tools to families in our Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership (EHS-CCP) program that they can use at home to engage their children in meaningful learning experiences.
United Way’s EHS-CCP works with early care and education centers and family child care homes across Miami-Dade to elevate and expand access to quality infant and toddler care and provide for successful transitions through kindergarten. The EHS-CCP also provides comprehensive services to 320 infant and toddlers and their families throughout Miami-Dade County. The EHS-CCP plays an important role in developing a goal-oriented relationship with families. When our staff members develop a relationship based on respect and trust, family engagement is more likely to thrive. Research has shown that when parents have adequate resources, live in safe home environments that support learning and development, and provide active and intentional learning experiences, children have better chances for success in school and in life.
Center hosts its second infant and toddler conference
On July 14-15, more than 150 early care and education practitioners and families were inspired at the second United Way and Early Head-Start Child Care Partnership Infant and Toddler Conference to continue providing quality early learning experiences for infant and toddlers. The Center partnered with Elsa Chahin, president of the Pikler/Lóczy Fund USA for the conference themed Embrace Early Care and Education.
Demonstration School children sell handcrafted items to benefit families in home-based program
As part of ConnectMiami, ten days in May, where Miami-Dade was challenged to step out of their comfort zones and connect with other people who are not like them, our Demonstration School students opened a store with handcrafted items to benefit children and families in the Early Head Start Home-based program.
United Way of Colombia and Mexico visit the Center to learn how to take our key practices to their countries.
On May 8 – 9, United Way of Colombia and Mexico visited the Center to learn how they can implement our key practices for quality early care and education and support a sustainable and
Participants learned about what makes our Center unique from our staff and local experts in the field of early care and education.
Florida Blue employees host field day with children at Ethel Beckford
On May 1, Florida Blue joined teachers, children, and their families during their spring field day at Ethel Beckford/Richmond Elementary, one of the Center’s 17 Early Head Start-Childcare Partnership grant sites. Florida Blue employees helped set-up the actives for the day and joined children on the fun of the day
From this site, the Center is offering quality early care and education and comprehensive services to 48 infants and toddlers and their families. Unlike the other EHS-CCP sites, at Ethel Beckford we administer the early childhood program and its day-to-day operations.
Perry Ellis visits the Demonstration School
Perry Ellis International’s marketing team spent some time at the Center learning about quality early care and education and how they can be further engaged in our efforts. The team toured the Center, and because Pre-K 4, Family 2 classroom is studying the five senses, Perry Ellis team helped children create sensory bags. The bags were filled with buttons, gel, food coloring, baby oil, rice and coffee beans.
Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership expands to serve 200 more children
In December 2014, the United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education (the Center) was awarded a 5-year, $22.5 million federal grant to enhance and expand access to quality infant and toddler care in high-need communities. This year, the Center was awarded a second $15 million, 4-year federal grant to serve an additional 200 low-income infant and toddlers and their families, and expand the number of early learning programs that offer full-day/full-year services. This is an addition to the 320 infants and toddlers currently being served by the Center at 16 early learning programs.
The first years in a child’s life – when most of their brain is forming – sets the foundation for success in school and in life. Unfortunately, too many young children are missing out on high-quality early learning experiences. With cognitive, social, behavioral and health disparities between lower- and higher-income children starting as early as nine months of age, high-quality early learning programs for infants and toddlers are a key ingredient to closing the opportunity gap, leveling the playing field, and making sure all of our children have the best odds at success.
These grants are designed to respond to the needs of working families by offering flexible and convenient full-day/full-year services. In addition, child care providers have experience providing care that is strongly grounded in the cultural, linguistic, and social needs of the families and the community. These grants ensure that early care and education centers and family child care providers have access to much-needed resources that help them provide comprehensive services for our county’s most vulnerable children and families.
Gladys Montes, vice president of the Center, selected to serve on the Educare Leadership Council
The Educare Learning Network is a partnership between the Ounce of Prevention Fund and the Buffett Early Childhood Fund that aims to narrow the achievement gap for children living in poverty by building schools and creating a network of early learning champions around the country.
The Center’s Demonstration School joined the Educare Learning Network in 2008, becoming the seventh Educare Center in the country. Today there are 21 centers in this growing network which is regarded as one of the nation’s most effective early childhood education program.
On April, our own Gladys Montes was selected to serve on the Educare Leadership Council. The Council is a small group of executives from the Educare Learning Network that engage in joint planning, prioritizing and decision making to achieve the short-and-long-term objectives and move closer to the joint vision of expanding and influencing the nation’s early childhood education system, leveling the playing flied for every child. Gladys is one of five Educare Schools’ representatives to serve on the Council.
The journey continues
The Center celebrates 10 years elevating the quality of early care and education in Miami-Dade and beyond…
Growing a generation of green thumbs
The Demonstration School views the garden as a place for play and inquiry where children of all ages can learn, explore and even develop socially and emotionally. It also a place to expose children to growing their own vegetables, then harvesting the vegetables, and bringing them to the kitchen to prepare nutritious meals. To ensure the garden’s success, ten Demonstration School parents, one from each classroom, volunteered to be part of a new gardening committee that will create activities that will support the School’s garden. Their first project was the replanting of the garden for the new school year, an event that was attended by 20 families. The next task for the gardening committee is to create a plan for the garden’s sustainability.
The Center launches online learning portal
Through a contribution from Betsy and George Sherman, the Center launched learning.unitedwaymiami.org where early care and education professionals can sign-up for face-to-face and online learning opportunities. In its first month, more than 300 educators used the portal to sign up for trainings. Since opening its door, the Center has trained more than 24,900 early care and education practitioners locally and internationally.
Center hosts its first infant and toddler conference
On July 29 and 30, more than 150 early care and education practitioners were inspired at the first United Way and Early Head-Start Child Care Partnership Infant and Toddler Conference. Themed Embrace Early Care and Education, the Center partnered with Mary Jane Maguire-Fong, author of the 2015 Teachers College Press book, Teaching and Learning with Infants and Toddlers: Where Meaning-Making Begins.
Better-qualified teachers can improve the quality of early care and education
An early care and education workforce that is appropriately skilled and trained is a major contributor to achieving the best possible child and family outcomes. 80 early care and education teachers are now better qualified having successfully completed a 10-month, 120-hour program to earn the Child Development Associate (CDA) national credential. The educators who are working hard to build their skills in early care and education are part of United Way’s 16 Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership program.
United Way of Miami-Dade invests $4.5 million to raise the quality of early care and education programs in high-need communities
In December 2014 a 5-year, $22.5 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to raise the quality of early care and education for infants and toddlers in some of Miami-Dade’s high need communities. Over the past year, the United Way Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership has offered comprehensive services to 320 children, their families and teachers in 17 early care and education centers and family childcare homes. On May 10, the Center hosted a grand opening of the Partnership Building, which will serve as headquarters for the grant
Bank of America brings hands-on learning to preschoolers
Bank of America Merrill Lynch held a conference for its top financial advisors, during which it partnered with United Way of Miami-Dade on a volunteer project; building more than 900 science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) kits to benefit children in our new Quality Counts Neighborhood Learning Network grant.
Following the conference, several executives from Merrill Lynch’s Southeast division brought the STEAM kits to life with 3-and 4-year-old students at the United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education. Together, everyone learned about motion, gravity, chemical reactions and electricity, while experimenting with their STEAM projects.
Early Head Start grantees in Miami-Dade meet at the Center
More than 80 Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe, Miami-Dade County and United Way of Miami Dade staff met to learn about each Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership program, additional services they provide and the communities they are serving. Each program had the opportunity to share their successes and also the challenges they are facing. Through these Early Head Start grants, more than 1,000 young children ages birth to 36 months are receiving high quality early education and comprehensive services, laying a firm foundation for future success in kindergarten and beyond.
The Center hosts its first annual Better Beginnings Baby Fair
The Center partnered with the Kiwanis Cubs, University of Florida/Miami-Dade County Extension, and the City of Miami Gardens to host the first-ever Better Beginnings Baby Fair on Saturday, February 2 at the Betty T. Ferguson Recreation Center in Miami Gardens. Families with children ages 0 – 3 had the opportunity to learn about child safety, early learning, positive parenting and healthy lifestyle through more than fifteen, 20-minute workshops. Through a partnership with the Healthy Start Coalition, 47 families were also able to take part of a car seat safety workshop and be provided with a brand new car seat at no cost.
The Neighborhood Learning Network grant is creating communities of practice
The Center’s newest grant, Quality Counts Neighborhood Learning Network, began hosting its communities of practice (CoPs). CoPs provide opportunities for program teachers and administrators in the grant to discuss, collaborate and exchange ideas and resources. The grant also provides services including on-site coaching, accreditation supports, and mental health supports in the central region of Miami-Dade County. Services are offered in partnership with Children’s Forum and Citrus Health Network. Funded by The Children’s Trust.
Aerin Lauder reads to Pre-K students at the Center
After speaking to more than 1,000 women at the 15th Annual United Way Women’s Leadership Breakfast, Aerin Lauder visited the Center to learn more about its mission to elevate the quality of early care and education in Miami-Dade and beyond. She toured the Center with Paula Moujalli, director/principal of the Demonstration School, and read Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems and It’s Okay to Be Different by Todd Parr to a preschool classroom. To thank Aerin for her visit, the Women Leadership created a lending library and family gathering space at St. Alban’s Child Enrichment Center, an Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership program in Coconut Grove.
Demonstration School staff participates on The Wonder of Learning exhibit opening
The exhibition The Wonder of Learning is designed to reflect the contemporaneity, the complexity, and the different points of view that have always characterized the work of Reggio Emilia-inspired early care and education programs. During the opening, staff had the opportunity to listen Lella Gandini, an Italian author, teacher and advocate for the Reggio Emilia approach in the United States, about the difficulties children perceive when proposing something they want to learn about.
With a McCormick grant and the help of Pan-American Life Insurance Group (PALIG), United Way of Miami-Dade created a food pantry to benefit the 30-40 families whose children attend Liberty City’s A New World Academy. This is the second Community Cupboard United Way has created at a local early learning facility to provide qualifying families at the center with non-perishable food, personal, household and baby items. A New World Academy is one of 16 early care and education programs Miami-Dade that are receiving comprehensive services through United Way’s Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership
United Way National Women’s Leadership group visited the United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education to learn about United Way’s impact on our community and the experiences of women in Miami-Dade County. After touring the Center, the ladies engaged in a volunteer project, assembling more than 100 care packages for women and children of the Lotus House, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of homeless women, youth and children.
The Center expands its reach in undeserved communities in Miami-Dade
The start of the school year marked the beginning of the first year of implementation of our EHS-CCP grant, serving 320 children at 16 sites. Included are four infant and toddler classrooms opened by the Center, in partnership with Miami-Dade County Public Schools, at a repurposed Ethel Beckford/Richmond Elementary School.
Early Childhood Program Administrator’s Institute (ECPAI) is a series of courses specifically geared towards directors, owners and administrators of early education programs, offered at the United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education. In its eighth year, the program gives participants the opportunity to expand their knowledge of early education philosophies, build leadership skills, and improve the quality of their early childhood programs. In June, 104 administrators completed the program. At the same time, the program received the Agencies Helping Associations Proposer (AHAP) award from the Florida Family Child Care Home Association, Inc.
The Community Cupboard opened its doors in 2013 to help address the issues of food insecurity among families with children attending the Center. Each month, families are invited to the Cupboard to shop for their own food. This year, through a grant from United Way of Maryland, United Way of Miami-Dade will be able to open a new Cupboard in an Early Head Start program. The funding will also support enhancement and expansion of services provided such as family trainings, creation of recipes, and cooking demonstrations using ingredients from the Cupboard.
In December 2014, the United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education was awarded a 5-year, $22.5 million grant to enhance and expand access to quality infant and toddler care in high-need communities as part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership grant. Twenty newly hired early care and education professionals, across 17 centers throughout Miami-Dade County, will prepare 320 children to enter kindergarten over the next 5 years. The kick-off hosted at the Center on May 14 brought together partners and staff.
The Center staff took part of the annual Educare Learning Network Meeting. The meeting was an opportunity for more than 200 Network members to discuss early learning strategies, reflect on evidence-based practices and share success stories of their work. This meeting gave Vivyan Sanchez, master teacher and Lisa White, program evaluator from the University of Miami the opportunity to share their expertise by presenting to other early childhood professionals in the Network the work that the Center is doing with Dual Language Learners.
After speaking to more than 1,000 women at the 14th Annual United Way Women’s Leadership Breakfast, Chelsea Clinton visited the Center to learn more about its mission to elevate the quality of early care and education in Miami-Dade and beyond. She toured the Center with Gladys Montes, vice president of the Center, and read Llama Llama And The Bully Goat written by Anna Dewdney to a preschool classroom.
On February 12, the Center dedicated the Art Studio at the Demonstration School in honor of Alesia Mogul. Alesia was a lifelong advocate for quality education for all children and friend of the arts. It was through the generous donations of many of Alesia’s friends and family that made this dedication possible.
The Center received $24,000 grant from Comcast to continue providing technology trainings to early learning professionals and volunteers. Through the Comcast Early Learning Technology Program, the Center will train and empower 52 early learning professionals and volunteers with technology tools to document children’s learning experience, communicate digitally with families and the community, and create products that will enhance their portfolios and resumes.
In partnership with Educare, the Center hosted a reception featuring Dr. Jack P. Shonkoff, director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University on December 11. The reception brought together more than 80 nationwide educators, nonprofit leaders and research experts to discuss the importance of investing in early care and education.
The Center is chosen for a 5-year, $22.5 million grant
The Center was chosen from among 200 plus organizations nationwide to receive a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership (EHS-CCP) grant, totaling $22.5 million over five years. In addition to the Center, the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe and Miami-Dade County received EHS-CCP grants, a testament to the strides being made in Miami-Dade County around quality early education.
In partnership with Educare, the Center co-sponsored a booth located at the 29th Annual Zero to Three National Training Institute in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Over a 1,000 conference attendees visited the booth to learn about Educare core features, and the Center’s evidence-based practices and professional learning offerings. Demonstration School infant and toddler teachers were present at the booth to answer questions regarding the Center practices in the early years.
ReadyRosie, an innovative mobile family engagement resource that sends a daily two minute video (in English and Spanish) to parents that models daily interactions in everyday situations, partnered with NAEYC to provide a series of videos featuring interviews with conference presenters and attendees. Demonstration school parent Ryan Pontier, Ph.D., and Center committee member Luis Hernandez, early childhood education specialist at Western Kentucky University, were featured in the family engagement video and spoke about the importance of engaging families. United Way staff member and contributing author of Technology and Digital Media in the Early Years: Tools for Teaching and Learning, Luisa Cotto was featured in the technology video where she spoke about how technology connects early childhood professionals.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) publishes Spotlight on Young Children: Supporting Dual Language Learners featuring a chapter on the Demonstration School.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) publishes Technology Tools for Strengthening Communities featuring a chapter on the use of technology for community engagement by United Way staff member Luisa Cotto.
Through a grant from Betsy and George Sherman, the Center partnered with Early Childhood Investigations, an ongoing professional learning series that is delivered online to provide the Start Kids Bright Webinar Series. More than 4,000 early childhood professional from 57 countries participated in the first four webinars of the series.
The Center for Advancement of Jewish Education (CAJE) partners with the Center, Customized Solutions, to create the Early Childhood Leadership Institute.
Libby Doggett, deputy assistant secretary for policy and early learning at the U.S Department of Education, Sylvia Acevedo, presidential commissioner at the White House Initiative for Educational Excellence for Hispanics, and Nancy Navarro, Montgomery County councilmember visited the Center as part of The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence National Summit on Hispanic Early Learning kick-off reception which was hosted at the Center.
The Early Childhood Program Administrators Institute expands to include a cohort of practitioners in Liberty City.
Two teachers who benefitted from early literacy professional learning programs at the Center received awards at the National Head Start Association’s Scholarship & Awards Program. Betty Ford, a preschool teacher at St. Alban’s Child Enrichment Center, was involved in United Way’s Project LEER (Literacy Enhancement for Early Readers) and Frances Lozada-Tirado, a preschool teacher at Holy Redeemer is part of the MAESTRO program.
Governor Rick Scott draws attention to early learning while signing bill at the Center
A significant step in changing the system of early education in Florida came when the state passed House Bill 7165, restructuring the state’s early learning system into the Department of Education. Governor Rick Scott visits the Center to participate in a ceremonial signing of the bill.
The Center partners with University of Miami professor Mileidis Gort to host more than 100 educators from South Florida at the Teaching in a Multilingual Context institute.
ReadingPals promotes early literacy skills
The Center receives a grant from Carol Jenkins Barnett and Barney Barnett of Publix Supermarkets Charities to launch ReadingPals in partnership with The Children’s Movement of Florida. Now in its fifth year, this volunteer reader program has brought 650 volunteers to provide 8,410 hours of reading to 1,644 children in preschool classrooms.
Expanding our support to early education programs
With the launch of Pathways to Quality effort, United Way expanded its relationship with our early education funded programs. In addition to receiving funding from United Way, these programs now began to also receive strategic planning and capacity building support, another key step in elevating quality.
Creating better teachers through onsite coaching and professional learning
The Center receives a grant from The Children’s Trust to implement the Mentoring All Educators, Supporting Teachers, Raising Outcomes (MAESTRO) program which provided nearly 30 teachers with a total of 7,775 one-on-one coaching hours, another step in improving their skills.
In partnership with United Way Worldwide, the Center convenes an early learning summit for United Ways in Latin America.
The Center receives $3.5 million Early Reading First grant
Given the importance of developing early literacy skills in young children, the Center receives a three-year, $3.5 million Early Reading First grant from the U.S. Department of Education for Project LEER (Literacy Enhancement for Early Readers). Over the course of the three years, 300 early care and education professionals and 580 students benefited from this program.
The Center hosts first Visible Thinking South Florida conference
In collaboration with Florida International University, the Center hosts the first Visible Thinking South Florida conference with Harvard University professors. The Demonstration School continues to incorporate visible thinking as an evidence-based best practice in its curriculum.
Center launches an administrator’s institute
The Center launches the Early Childhood Program Administrators Institute (ECPAI), in partnership with Miami Dade College. This program continues to this date and has elevated the professionalism and skills of 634 administrators and early education specialists.